CLOSING THE GAP TO RAISE THE BAR: The Power of 5 CRITICAL QUESTIONS

 

While gains in student achievement occur inside the classroom and are directly influenced by the effectiveness of the teacher, large system change, in owning every student, is only possible when everyone in the organization sees him- or herself as responsible for the success of each student. Each class contributes to the school targets, each school contributes to the system targets, and each system contributes to the state targets.

One way to assess how we are making a difference for each student is to check for deep use of assessment “for” and “as” learning by asking five critical questions that I first asked students and now ask teachers and leaders as well:

  1. What are you learning?
  2. How are you doing?
  3. How do you know?
  4. How can you improve?
  5. Where do you go for help? (Lyn Sharratt Learning Walks and Talks Training Materials, 2008-2015)

 

School leaders who do daily Learning Walks and Talks (Sharratt & Fullan, 2009, 2012; Sharratt & Harild, 2015, Sharratt & Planche, 2016 (In Press)) gather evidence of teachers’ intentional teaching and of students’ improvement when they ask students the five questions above. Students who can accurately describe their learning, and how to improve, close the achievement gap. After many walks, conversations with teachers ensue. Leaders ask authentic questions about why teachers make the decisions they make. Leaders also take action if teaching is not occurring at a competent or preferably high-impact level. Action must be taken if students are not progressing at an expected rate (Sharratt & Harild, 2015, Chapter 4).

 

The Power of Five Questions is in answer to the question “How Do You Know All Students’ are learning?” System and school leaders at every level who ask students the five questions get feedback on how explicit the instruction is and improvement is progressing. They use that feedback to become a large and focused part of every Professional Learning session, which is critical for all teachers and leaders to craft collaboratively. Taking daily Learning Walks and Talks to ask learners the five questions is essential. Similarly, ensuring that teachers have the time to reflect on the firm foundation necessary for all students’ mastery of reading, writing, oral language, and problem-solving skills to answer the five questions provides the springboard needed to incorporate the 21st-century learning skills into the curriculum content.

References

Sharratt, L. (2008-2015). Learning Walks and Talks [Training materials]. Australia, Canada, and Chile.

Sharratt, L., & Fullan, M. (2009). Realization: The change imperative for deepening district- wide reform. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin.

Sharratt, L., & Fullan, M. (2012). Putting FACES on the data: What great leaders do. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin.

Sharratt, L., & Harild, G. (2015). Good to great to innovate: Recalculating the route K–12+. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin.

Sharratt, L., & Planche, B. (2016, in press). Leading collaborative learning: Empowering excellence. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin.


Using data to inform instruction

We are intent on ensuring that all students in every class have an opportunity to learn. A key mechanism every teacher has available to assure that every child is learning is up to date data on each child’s performance. Whether standardized, large-scale or in-class generated, the data can provide critical insights to the teacher who is professionally sure how to use it and confident in proceeding. Can we any longer stand by as teachers, administrators or elected officials report that “only x%” of their students did not make standard? Can we standby and not find ways to encourage or persuade our districts and teachers to use the data to determine with precision how to help each child? Can we standby knowing that many teachers simply don’t know how to mine the data they have in their daily planners? Lyn Sharratt